sandro botticelli - Virgin and Child with an Angel, 1470-1474

sandro botticelli (Florence, 1444 or 1445 - 1510, Florence)

Virgin and Child with an Angel, 1470-1474

Tempera on panel, 85 x 64.5 cm (33 7/16 x 25 3/8 in.) panel

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Object details

Accession number

P27w73

Dimension Notes

Frame: 103.5 x 82.8 cm (40 3/4 x 32 5/8 in.)

Provenance

Collection of Prince Chigi, Rome, by 1892–1899.
Collection of the art dealers Colnaghi & Co., London, 1899.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Colnaghi & Co., London, 24 June 1899 for £14,500 through Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), American art historian.

Marks

On the back of the panel are a variety of seals with the arms of Prince Chigi, Duke of Ariccia, probably from the 18th century.

Bibliography

Eugène Müntz. "A Propos de Botticelli." Gazette des Beaux Arts (Sept. 1898), pp. 177-87.
P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. The Chigi Botticelli: Exhibited by kind permission of Mrs. John. L. Gardner. Exh. cat. (London: Colnaghi & Co., 1901).
Ernst Steinmann. Botticelli (London, 1901), pp. 12, 14-15, fig. 13.
N.N. "Two Pictures with a Past." The Nation 73 (5 Dec. 1901), pp. 432-433.
G.W.C. "The Chigi Madonna by Botticelli" The Artist 33 (Jan. 1902), pp. 3-5.
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 23.
Julia Mary Cartwright Ady. Sandro Botticelli. (London, 1903), pp. 21-23, ill.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen âge et de la renaissance (1280-1580) (Paris, 1905), p. 159.
Wilhelm Bode. Sandro Botticelli (London, 1925), pp. 18, 22-24, 26, 30, 99, 105, 158.
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 63-65.
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 232, pl. 14.
Morris Carter. "Mrs. Gardner & The Treasures of Fenway Court" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 59.
Sylvia Sprigge. Berenson, a Biography (Boston, 1960), pp. 183-85, 189.
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 8, no. 44 (4 Jul. 1965), p. 2.
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 9, no. 37 (15 May 1966), p. 2. (excerpting Sylvia Sprigge, pp. 138-85)
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 9, no. 39 (29 May 1966), p. 2. (excerpting Sylvia Sprigge, p. 189)
Everett P. Fahy. "Some Notes on the Stratonice Master." Paragone 17 (July 1966), pp. 23-24, pl. 18.
George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969), pp.188-89.
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), p. 38. (as 1470-1474)
Ronald Lightbown: Botticelli: Complete Catalogue, Vol. II (Berkeley, 1978), pp. 23-24, B9.
Gabrielle Kopelman. "Second Thoughts." Fenway Court (1979), pp. 54-58, nos. 4-8.
Herbert P. Horne. Botticelli: Painter of Florence (Princeton, 1980), pp. 35-37, 42.
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 46-47.
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 174-76, 179-80, 186, 192-93, 195, 217, 220, 231, 233-34, 236, 260-61, 263-64, 266, 270-75, 277, 279, 281, 292-93, 296, 403, 666.
Erica E. Hirshler. "Mrs. Gardner's Rival: Susan Cornelia Warren and her Art Collection." Fenway Court (1988), p. 50.
Ronald Lightbown. Sandro Botticelli: Life and Work (New York, 1989), p. 41, pl. 14.
Annamaria Petrioli Tofani (ed.). Il Disegno Fiorentino del tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Exh. cat. (Florence: Uffizi, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, 1992), p. 110-111, no. 4.13.
George R. Goldner and Carmen C. Bambach. The Drawings of Filippino Lippi and His Circle. Exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997), p. 102-103, no. 6.
Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Botticelli’s Witness: Changing Style in a Changing Florence. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1997), pp. 22, 30-31, no. 1. (as about 1472-1475)
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 58-59. (as early 1470s)
Dario Cimorelli et al. (eds.). Matteo Civitali e il suo Tempo: Pittori, scultori e orafi a Lucca nel tardo Quattrocento. Exh. cat. (Milan: Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi, 2004), p. 368.
Pierluigi De Vecchi et al. (eds.) Botticelli and Filippino: Passion and Grace in Fifteenth-Century Painting. Exh. cat. (Paris: Musée du Luxembourg; Florence: Palazzo Strozzi, 2004), pp. 188-191, no. 25. (as about 1470-1472)
Jeremy Howard. "Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and Mrs. Gardner's first Botticelli" in Colnaghi. Colnaghi Past, Present, and Future: An Anthology (London, 2016), pp. 21-22, 25, fig. 3.
Oliver Tostmann. "Bernard Berenson and America's Discovery of Sandro Botticelli" in Mark Evans et al. Botticelli Reimagined. Exh. cat. (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2016), pp. 108, 337.
Ana Debenedetti. "The Virgin and Child with an Angel (Chigi Madonna)" in Mark Evans et al. Botticelli Reimagined. Exh. cat. (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2016), pp. 258-259, no. 109.


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Commentary

A vast number of paintings of the Virgin and Child were produced in Florence in the late 1400s to meet a new demand for devotional images on a domestic scale. Early in his career, Botticelli specialized in such works. While this painting possesses much of the calm prettiness expected from these Madonnas, it also contains unexpected elements of allegory. The angel, Virgin, and Christ Child all look down at a bowl of grapes studded with ears of grain. Grapes and wheat produce the wine and bread of the Eucharist, and allude to the blood and body of Christ’s sacrifice. The Virgin carefully selects some of the wheat, to signify that she accepts her child’s fate. The angled arcade adds further mystery: like a set of isolated doorways, the structure encloses the figures while it simultaneously frames the landscape beyond.

In 1899, Isabella Stewart Gardner discovered that the Prince Chigi in Rome was willing to sell his painting by Botticelli, so she cabled Bernard Berenson to ask if it was worth $30,000. He replied emphatically that it was not, but she was not discouraged. A few months later, the price had risen to $70,000 and Berenson was recommending its purchase! The acquisition stirred great controversy because the press believed that the painting had been illegally exported from Italy; the Prince Chigi was fined, but later cleared of impropriety. Popular interest on both sides of the Atlantic became so great that it was decided to exhibit the painting in London at Colnaghi before it was shipped to Boston.

Source: Alan Chong, "Virgin and Child with an Angel," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 58.

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